CARBONDALE — SIU director of track & field/cross country Rosalind Joseph has announced the signing of four student-athletes to national letters of intent for the 2021 class.
"I'm excited to add to our women's distance group," said Joseph. "It's been such a unique and challenging recruiting period for everyone, so to be able to recruit this caliber of student-athletes to our program speaks volumes to coach (Kevin) Cataldo and to the university for making the impression from afar. It also speaks to the dedication of these young women in their process of finding the best fit for them. I'm glad to have them as Salukis!"
The initial group of signees for the 2021 class include four athletes who will participate on both the cross country course and track. Two of the four hail from the state of Ohio, while one comes down from Michigan. The lone Illinois native comes from nearby Metropolis.
"I'm really excited about this incoming class," said cross country coach Kevin Cataldo. "They have a lot of potential and will be able to help us in the middle distance events on the track, while also being able to contribute on the cross country course. The difficulty of that speaks volumes to what kind of student-athletes we're bringing in."
Here is a look at the 2021 signees:
Ansley Bailey/Metropolis/Massac County High School
The lone Illinois native brings a winning pedigree to this Saluki class. During her senior season, Bailey placed first at every meet, including an 18:39 showing that ended her high school career with her first sectional title. Personal bests: 400m (59.58), XC – 3 mile (17:49).
"We're really excited to welcome in Ansley Bailey to the Southern Illinois family," said Cataldo. "She's a local kid. We're keeping southern Illinois talent inside Illinois and we love to see that. She was our first verbal commit back in July. She's a great kid and really clicks with our team. She's got a lot of potential in the middle distance events and has some range. She's an All-State selectee in cross country and ran some really fast marks this past year. We're really excited to welcome Ansley aboard."
Abbigail Kiaunis/Reed City, Mich./Reed City High School
Kiaunis participated in four years of cross country for Reed City High School. Over her high school career, Kiaunis collected 12 first-place finishes, including six during her senior campaign. At the 2020 Michigan High School Athletic Association cross country championships, Kiaunis placed 12th with a mark of 19:19. Personal bests: 400m (59.95), 1600m (5:17), XC – 5K (18:58).
"Abby comes all the way from northern Michigan, which is close to my hometown," Cataldo said of Kiaunis. "Having that connection really helped us out in her recruitment. She really clicked with the team throughout this recruiting process. She's got a ton of range and will really be of value to our middle distance group in addition to helping us out on the cross country course."
Brianna Nieset/Chardon, Ohio/Chardon High School
A three-year cross country runner who also participated in two years of track, Nieset brings a lot of upside to the Saluki program. During her cross country career, Nieset placed in the top-five of three meets. On the track, Nieset was stout in the 800 meter, as evident by her eight career first-place finishes. Personal bests: 800m (2:13), 1600m (5:22.19), XC – 5K (19:01).
"Brianna is coming all the way from Ohio," said Cataldo. "She's a great middle distance athlete. If the season didn't get cut short this year, I really think she would've been running elite-level times in the 800 meter. She's very versatile and I think she's got a lot of upside and potential. We're really excited to add her to our middle distance group."
Katelyn Stapleton/West Liberty, Ohio/West Liberty-Salem High School
A four-time state qualifier, Katelyn Stapleton is looking to make an impact as a freshman for the middle distance unit at Southern Illinois. Throughout her high school career, Stapleton racked up plenty of top-five finishes on the cross country and track. For her efforts on the cross country course, Stapleton was named All-Ohio during her sophomore, junior and senior seasons. On the track, Stapleton is a two-time indoor and outdoor state qualifier, in addition to having earned All-Ohio honors in the 4x800m relay and 800m during her junior year. Personal bests: 800m (2:17), 160m (5:12), XC – 5K (18:48).
"Katelyn comes from Ohio and is another great middle distance runner to add to this class," said Cataldo. "She's very versatile and has run extraordinary marks in cross country. I think she's going to be a key to our middle distance clog that we've got going this year. She'll add some really nice depth to the cross country course."